Tag Archives: kung fu

The Origins of Xingyi Liuhe Quan

by Will Wain-Williams

Xinyi Liuhe Quan is a very old, and somewhat rare system of Chinese martial arts, originating in the Chinese military before being passed down among Hui Muslim communities and then finally finding its way to Shanghai at the turn of the 20th century. The system is considered an “internal” style of martial arts, a fairly fuzzy term, which implies that power is derived through relaxation and correct alignment of the body as opposed to brute force. It is considered the ancestor of several more modern martial arts systems such as Xinyi Quan and Da Cheng Quan.

Picture3Movements and strategy

The movements and strategies of Xinyi Liuhe Quan reflect the military nature of the system, as legend has it they were derived from the famous general and patriot Yue Fei, who made a system of hand-to-hand combat based on his high level of skill with the spear and bow-and-arrow. The movements are outwardly linear, however they utilize coiling of the body to generate power, and require flexibility and strength in the hips and waist. There are no high kicks or flashy, performance based movements. The overruling strategy is to engage the opponent directly and finish the fight as quickly as possible, focussing all your power forward. If you imagine a regiment of troops in battle, all marching forward towards the enemy, then this concept is easy to understand. Just as a regiment moves as a whole unit, in Xinyi Liuhe Quan, the body also moves as one. The Chinese word Liuhe in fact means “six harmonies” and refers to the feet, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and hands all moving unison. At the same time the practitioner must have a kind of “killer intent” when they fight, concentrating totally on the task at hand, which is one of several interpretations of Xinyi, which literally translates as heart-mind.

Picture2The system

The core of the system is made up of Shi Da Xing, or ten great shapes. In fact, in Shanghai, the system is colloquially known just by that name. The ten great shapes are ten different animals, however it doesn’t mean imitating animals movements, rather understanding and implementing the characteristics of certain animals, for example the raw power of how a tiger pounces on prey, the agility of a monkey or the speed and viciousness with which an eagle swoops. The ten animals are: hawk, eagle, chicken, swallow, snake, dragon, bear, tiger, monkey and horse. Each animal has its own strategies and techniques, and suits a person of a certain body type, for example a large bulky framed person might focus on bear, which uses a lot of heavy power to overwhelm, whereas a slim framed person might focus on swallow, which swoops down suddenly only to dart up again unexpectedly. Several weapons are also taught, including of course, the spear, as well as the sabre, sword and two-sectioned staff. The weapons are regarded as an extension of the hands, and so the techniques and strategies are much the same regardless.

Combat

Besides being an effective fighting system, Xinyi Liuhe Quan is also well known for the longevity of its practitioners. Many masters have lived to be in their 90s and even 100s and practiced right up to their last days. This is due to the holistic workout gained through training; there are three levels a student will go through. The first will be training of the muscles, the second is the training of the tendons and bones, and the last level is the training of the blood and qi. The combination of relaxation and tension, as well as the twisting movements of the trunk of the body ensure a whole body workout, while various meditative exercises are also carried out to train the mind.

Picture1Heritage

Xinyi Liuhe Quan was passed down in Henan province among communities of Muslim Hui people, who were historically very conservative and closed people, due to discrimination by the Han majority. It is possibly due to this that the system was able to remain relatively unchanged and preserve the brutal nature that arose from its military origins. It was brought to Shanghai early in the twentieth century by a man named Lu Song Gao, a native of Zhoukou County in Henan. Born in 1875 and passed away in 1961, he began his martial arts training during childhood, studying under the seventh generation master Yuan Feng Yi. As a young man he took a job as an armed bodyguard escorting cargo around China, before moving to Anhui and Nanjing, before finally settling in Shanghai where he was hired to work security at a flour factory. It was here that he had a lot of free time to refine his art, and his reputation grew as an excellent fighter. During this time he made acquaintance with a man named Ding Ren 丁仁, who was also a native of Henan.  Ding was also highly, and was two generations higher than Lu. Being impressed with Lu’s skill, he told him that passing on Xinyi Liuhe Quan would be his responsibility, and so spent the next six months visiting him in the Mosque daily to learn all he could from him.

Keeping the style alive

Transmission outside of the Muslim community is generally acknowledged as beginning with a man named Jie Xing Bang, who was originally a native of Hebei province, but grew up in Shanghai where he was an underground agent for the communist party while working as a police detective for Yangpu district during the Republic era. At 1.9m tall, he was keen on martial arts from a young age, and in order to study Xinyi Liuhe Quan pretended to be a Muslim to gain access. He became a student of Lu Song Gao and became a top class fighter who was admired by his peers. It was after encountering him that Lu Song Gao opened his doors to all whether Muslim or not.

Where it can be found

Since that time Xinyi Liuhe Quan has spread throughout Shanghai and become one of its representative martial arts styles. Today you can find people in almost every park in the city practicing in the morning, who are attracted to it for its health benefits, as well as more serious practitioners who practice the system in its entirety, albeit often behind closed doors.

To find out more you can visit www.monkeystealspeach.com

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The Shaolin Mountain Run

The infamous Shaolin mountain run is fundamental part of Shaolin Kung Fu training. Whether you’re studying at one of the many kung fu schools in and around the Songshan Shaolin Temple or somewhere else, the run normally begins each morning before breakfast, or at minimum takes place once a week. This type of mid-distance hill climb not only pushes the body but the will power of students as they charge up and down the mountain, often descending steep steps on all fours.  This type of traditional training places emphasis on strength and stamina. It separates the weak from the chaff.

In order to properly prepare yourself before you arrive in China as well as improve your strength, stamina and potential running times I’ve put together these three core running workouts that you can do throughout the week.

cen-21. Aerobic Workouts and Preparation:

The mountain run is all about running at a consistent and comfortable speed with the right cadence to reduce effort and build fat-burning exnzymes, cardiovascular endurance, and time on your feet.  Alternating between long runs and short sprint training is a good tactic as a training method. As is making sure you start your hill climb in the knowledge that a power hike on the upward climb might be more efficient than running until you’ve built up your endurance and stamina. Power hiking is something that can also be trained for and is an excellent way to keep your heart rate in check. Another highly recommended tip is to swap your kung fu shoes for running shoes. Kung Fu shoes are super cool and excellent for form practice, but for the sake of injury prevention do the mountain run in your running shoes. You’ll thank me later.

2. Threshold Workouts:

The threshold is where your body begins to use more glycogen for energy and less fat, and when you train at and slightly above it, you can “raise the roof,” so to speak, so you can run faster at easier efforts (pretty cool). There are several workouts that you can fit in this slot, below are three.

How to find “threshold effort”: You know you’re at this effort when things start to feel uncomfortable, and it’s hard to talk. If you can get out one word responses, you’re there. If you can tell me what you did last night, you need to pick things up. If you’re gasping for air, slow it down. Because this is a physiologically based run, it works best when running by your effort rather than a pace; as you gain fitness, your pace will improve or you may slow down when the elements are challenging (heat and humidity). At the kung fu school its relatively easy to bond with other students. Finding a running partner is not going to be difficult. Doing the mountain run together and talking to each other supporting and driving each other you are able to find your threshold effort. With your partner you can select a combination of the three workouts or choose the most appropriate one that fits with your training schedule.

Five-Minute Tempo Workout:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Repeat four to five times: Run five minutes at or slightly above your threshold. Recover by jogging easy for two minutes in between. Cool down running five minutes easy and walking three minutes slowly.

2 or 3 x 10-Minute Tempo Workout:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Repeat two to three times: Run 10 minutes at or slightly above your threshold effort. Recover by jogging easy for two minutes in between. Start with two repeats and build to three over time (maybe even next season). Cool down running five minutes easy and walking three minutes slowly.

20-30 Minute Tempo Workout:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Run 20-30 minutes at or slightly above your threshold effort. Cool down running 10 minutes at an easy effort and walking 3 minutes slowly.

Mountain Run

3. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Workouts):

These workouts may be the hardest effort-wise, but they also make the most dramatic changes in aerobic fitness, speed, metabolism and caloric burn, and overall fitness. My favourite HIIT Workout is:

1-2-3 Intervals:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Repeats two to three times: Run one minute at a hard but controlled effort in the red zone. Recover with one minute easy walk or jog. Run two minutes in the red zone followed by one minute walking and one minute jogging easy to catch your breath and recover. Run three minutes in the red zone followed by one minute walking and two minutes jogging easy to catch your breath and recover.

Another option for your third workout is to alternate HIIT speed intervals one week with hill repeats the next. In both cases, you are working at a high intensity–in one, focusing on speed; in the other, building strength.

Workouts 4-5: Training on three running days is an effective strategy, but it also works well when you fill in the gaps with strength training and a low-impact cardio activity like deep stance training or static holds. Since your three running days all lie on the harder end of the effort scale, keep the stance training and strength workouts to an easy to moderate effort. That way, you won’t miss recovery along the way and get into a chronically fatigued state by training too hard.

As you put these workouts together, it will look a little something like this (this is a sample training plan):

Monday: Easy-effort stance and strength training
Tuesday: Interval workout (1-2-3s)
Wednesday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds, qigong 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds, qigong 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 14 miles
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga, light moving qigong, taichi (light stretching)

Monday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds, qigong, taichi 30 min. and strength training
Tuesday: Easy aerobic run — 45-60 min.
Wednesday: Easy-effort stance training, qigong, taichi 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training, qigong, taichi 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 10 miles (race effort: five easy miles, four at moderate effort, one mile hard)
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga, qigong, taichi (light stretching)

Monday: Easy-effort stance training, qigong 30 min. and strength training
Tuesday: Mountain run (repeats or hilly road)
Wednesday: Easy-effort qigong, stance training, taichi 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 16 miles
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga (light stretching)

Monday: Easy-effort stance training 30 min. and strength training
Tuesday: Easy aerobic run — 45-60 min.
Wednesday: Easy-effort qigong, taichi 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 10 miles (race effort: five easy miles, four at moderate effort, one mile hard)
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga, qigong, taichi (light stretching)

The Mountain run schedule might look something like this:
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountian Run; race-effort run
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; race-effort run
Mountain Run; race-effort run
Mountain Run; 4x race effort

This is a fun, effective way to improve your mountain run times with less overall impact on your body; however, it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s not a beginner’s plan–so ease yourself into it.

The Martial and Mandarin: Are you a type A student or a type B student?

In China dedicated martial arts students who plan to make the most of their time generally fall into two categories.

Type A – You’re a martial arts student in China and you’ve reached a level where in order to further develop your understanding and skill as well as make your life easier you’ve got no choice but learn the language.

Type B – You’re a Chinese language student who’s always been interested in martial arts but has yet to take the step into training. But things have finally come to a head and you’ve had enough of conversations about where you’re from, how much you earn and whether you like Chinese food, girls or football.

Chances are a few of you reading this post have had at least contemplated at least for a second combining martial arts with language learning.

You might have considered the following options. A university course with a certain amount of martial arts training, finding an elusive badass master and informally studying the language or by joining one of the many international kung fu schools and taking their free classes.

The benefit of combining martial arts and language learning can be found in the practical skills you learn that not only add to the experience but also your CV. Indeed such a step can take many in completely new directions abound with opportunities for the wily foreigner. Overall these programmes allow participants the opportunity to develop their martial arts and deepen their own understanding of Chinese culture and language.

“It’s a unique way to study with a high level master outside the normal international kung fu school route as that all important Chinese visa can be provided relatively cheaply through a University.”

Find a badass kung fu master  

This video clip above was taken in Yantai, Shandong province.

Yantai is a small second tier Chinese City on the northeast coast of China. It has cheap housing and has a good environment. Yantai is famous for a number of kung fu styles including Taichi Mantis, Tongbei quan, and Baguazhang. Locally with a little care you can find good masters. The city itself is a hot bed of kung fu schools and is well worth a look.

“Yantai is a hot bed of kung fu schools and masters on the east coast of China”

For details of our Traditional Martial Arts and Language Learning programmes in Yantai email info@studymartialarts.org. You can also check out Master Sui’s full biography and training schedule here. Or you can have a look at this school Kunlun International Kung Fu School which has links to Ludong University in Yantai for long term visas and currently has a very good Shaolin Kung Fu and Mantis Kung Fu master that you can study martial arts with.

Two alternatives that may be more suitable for those who are less independent or would prefer an all-inclusive experience are  The Yuntai Mountain International Culture and Martial Arts School founded by Shi Yan Lin, also known as Xie Xu Yong. This school is the only martial arts school currently offering a quality half day martial arts and half day language learning programme. The other option I would recommend is Capital Sport University of Physical Education in Beijing.

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Yuntai half and half programme

Master Shi Yan Lin is a master with over 10 year experience in teaching to both Chinese and International students Shaolin Martial Arts. The school is located in the famous Yuntai geological park, which attracts thousands of tourists every year and is fairly close to the fabled Northern Shaolin Temple. The Martial Arts training at the school will primarily focus on the various Shaolin fists and weapons as well as Sanda and Taichi. The school building formally a hotel has been converted into student accommodation, as a result the rooms are comfortable and comparatively of a high standard. The newly built training area and performance hall is five minute walk from the main accommodation area, so everything you need is close at hand.

The Chinese language course organised as part of the half martial arts, half language learning programme is available in partnership with Jiaozuo University. These courses can be specially tailored and intensive. This, makes the school a very real prospect for serious Chinese language learners. This close relationship between the martial arts school and the university means that long term student visas can be obtained for long term International students of the school.

The down side to the programme primarily relates to the schools relative isolation and the management insistence for compulsory school line ups throughout the day. Sometimes this can make students feel like they’re prisoners rather than students.

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University Programme

Captial University of Physical Education & Sports is one of Beijing’s premier Martial Arts Training Universities providing top-ranking conditions for international and domestic students. The university is supported by Hanban and Confucius Institute offering Chinese Language Learning Programs, Martial Arts University Programs, TCM, Sports & Health Care Programs.

The University offers the following programs; 4 Year Undergraduate Programs, 3 Year Master Programs, 3 Year Ph.D Programs, 1-2 Year Non-degree Programs and Short-term Programs.

The Universities Featured Programs are:

1. Chinese Language Programs
The University employs a special team for teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. This team is specializes in training international students who want to learn Chinese Culture and speak the Chinese Language. Class sizes are smaller than other universities and attention and help given to students is higher than at other Universities.  Thjs helps to ensure that students acquaire the language competences sufficent for their speciality studies in China. Small classes of differnt levels are provided as well as one-to-one teaching to meet students needs.

2. Martial Arts Programs
According to the period of study students can expect to study martial arts from martial arts champions who are experienced in both teaching and competitions for performance and also sport.

3. TCM Sports Health Care Programs
The instructor for this program is Ru Kai an assistant professor of Sports Rehabilitiation Department of Schools of Sports Science and Health. He is also the successor and master of Xisui Neigong, Baduanjin and Yijinjing.

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One of the main benefits from studying Mandarin at Capital Sports University is obviously the facilities, access to top coaches plus relatively small class size for language learning.

If you would like to learn more about studying martial arts and learning Chinese check out these great articles.

9 Mistakes to avoid when learning Chinese at a Kung Fu School in China

The things Chinese People Say

 

Martial Arts Travel Guide for China

People who travel to China without downloading this travel guide are 138% more likely to be unprepared for the journey ahead. All right, so maybe we’re exaggerating this point to grab your attention. However, the fact is that after you’ve read this guide you will know exactly what preparations are required before you begin your journey and also how you can deal with all that China has to offer.

This guide walks you through, the dreaded Chinese visa, what to pack, health and safety, money and banking, domestic travel, living in China, communications and much more.

You’ll learn:

  • How to prepare in advance of your trip
  • How to keep you and your belongs safe
  • What you’ll need to become an expert traveler
  • How to earn extra travel & training cash
  • Ways to save money

Download the guide here

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Why people choose us

At StudyMartialArts.Org we are passionate about Martial Arts and Travel. We believe that the combination of both provide a powerful catalyst for greater awareness. Our mission is based on connecting you to the right schools, masters or instructors.

Below you will find a testimonial from one of our past students Arvid Velt. Arvid first joined the SMA 1 month intensive martial arts travel and training tour. On this tour we combine historic sites fun and travel with training with a variety of high level masters throughout China. During that time we assisted him and advised him on the next move to bring his training to the next level.

Arvid at the time of the filming through our support and that of his Master studied in China for two years.

For further information contact us at info@StudyMartialArts.Org or visit our website. www.StudyMartialArt.Org Or why not view our other testimonials here.

The Importance of Hard Qigong in Chinese Traditional Martial Arts

by An Jian Qiu

At An Wushu, we believe that if you want to use your kung fu in combat, you must train hard qigong.

(What is hard qigong? Breathing and conditioning exercises that make your body harder, more resistant to pain, and able to give and take more force without becoming injured. Breaking a brick with your hand is probably the most well-known example.)

Many schools don’t share this belief, so it makes sense you may be wondering why…

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario: Imagine if you were to go and punch a brick wall as hard as you could, right now. What do you think would happen? You’re probably thinking about:

Hurting your hand badly, maybe even breaking your fingers or wrist
Losing your calm due to the pain
Instinctively hunching over your posture and holding your damaged hand to your chest
Why did this happen?

Obviously, the brick wall was much harder than your hand and wrist… or put differently: your body wasn’t strong enough to deliver your strike.

And what if you’d been fighting a live opponent? Losing focus so drastically can be the difference between life and death or victory and defeat.

Of course, hopefully your opponent isn’t as hard as a brick wall(!), but the difference is small when you’re both moving at high speeds and impacting at the strange angles of real combat, not “straight-on” like when you hit a bag. If you’re unconditioned, it doesn’t take a lot of force to become seriously injured.

Hopefully this has shown you why hard qigong is so important for offense.

What about for defense?

The example is obvious: imagine you get punched in the stomach so hard that you lose track of your senses. The next hit is definitely coming for your head!

At An Wushu, one of the things we recommend all new students do is ask Shiye (Grandmaster) An De Sheng if you can touch his stomach. No, we aren’t crazy… despite being 67-years-old, an age where most will have lost all their muscle mass, Shiye’s stomach is harder than steel from years of hard qigong. (The look of surprise on a new student’s face when they poke Shiye’s stomach is always a fun moment for older students.)

This is what days and days of hard qigong training does to the body: your body becomes not just firm like from working out, but literally hard like iron. This is where the name ‘Iron Body’ comes from.

As you progress through lower levels of training, you’ll find yourself taking less damage: receiving less bruises from sparring and watching them disappear much more quickly.

At higher levels of training, this protects you from even more harm, you heal amazingly quickly, and eventually, your opponent will hurt themselves by hitting you! The level of focus you can now have in training and fighting is what it needs to be for you to reach a truly high level of kung fu skill.

As a bonus, the hard chi that is packed into your body by hard qigong also greatly increases your physical health, your strength and your ability to fali/fajin (generate power). There are schools of Daoism that practice hard qigong purely for its health benefits.

These days, hard qigong isn’t so popular and has been lost from many styles, but in the years of true masters, hard qigong was a core part of all traditional kung fu systems. The ability to survive both your own offence, and your opponent’s, is a non-negotiable for a true fighter.

An Jian Qiu, is the headmaster of An Wushu International Martial Arts School in Dezhou, Shandong Province, China.

For further information on studying at An Wushu or other traditional martial arts schools in China visit www.StudyMartialArts.Org

 

Wudang Gong Fu & Health Academy

For sometime I’ve been looking to connect to the best Wudang Kung Fu schools located on Wudang Shan. Using the StudyMartialArts.Org network of respected fellow martial artists, friends and kung fu brothers I’ve researched visited and connected to a number of schools over the years.

One of the best on Wudang Shan that we have recently connected to is Master Tang’s academy close to Taichi Lake.

The Wudang Gong Fu & Health Academy is a small school with a detailed and structured education program.

Students who wish to enter and be accepted onto one of their special education programs covering the essential training of Wudang Xuan Wu Pai have the chance of becoming a Wudang Disciple and genuine linage holder of Wudang Internal Martial arts. Pending suitable performance and dedication of course.

The headmaster Tang Li Long is one of the main disciples of Grand Master You Xuan De. Master Tang has years of experience teaching Internal Wudang Martial Arts. He has created a system that teaches the essence effectively and under his guidance students will learn the tradition preserved on the mountain.

Tang Li Long’s vision is to spread the Wudang Daoist knowledge around the world in order to preserve the traditional teachings of dào fǎ zìrán ”the natural way” (道法自然) and the 10 Taoist principles of Wudang Pai. His school has a family feel to it where kung fu brothers and sisters from different countries, backgrounds and experiences can all share their knowledge in order to better understand the way of the Dao.

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ABOUT MASTER TANG LI LONG

Master Tang Li Long is a 15th generation Wudang Daoist Martial Arts Master of the Xuan Wu Pai. Encouraged by his father he started training Martial Arts in his home town at a young age. Later, after studying Wudang Taiji Quan in Wuhan for a well known master he was told to go to Wudang Mountain to become a Wudang Disciple. He’s master sent a mail to the Wudang Shool of Martial Arts and some time later he was invited to come and study for 14th generation Wudang Master You Xuande, who was the Abbot of the Wudang Temples and the keeper of the Wudang Martial Arts.

Wudang Disciple 1994 he arrived at Wudang Mountain and started to learn from Grand Master You. After a long time of hard training Master Tang became one of the main diciples of You Xuande. With a genuine background with in Taiji Quan his skills and understanding where different from other students. He worked close to Master You and helped him write down ideas about Martial Arts and Daoism. Tang Li Long is now one of the “5 Dragons of Wudang” and a linage holder of the Wudang Xuan Wu Pai. 1998 he won a Medal in the 1st World Traditional Wushu Championships and 1999 he was awarded as a outstanding Master in a big Wudang Taiji Quan gathering.
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Tang Laoshi, Master Tang Li Long, or “Tang Laoshi” as most people call him, has almost 20 years of experience of Wudang Martial Arts and have a system of teaching that is different from other schools on the mountain. He teaches the foundations of the style and focus on Basics, Qi Gong and Applications. His long time students has won many competitions and gained high skills in Wudang Wushu. His main skill is his ability to bring out good quality of the training and the students and teach the essence of Wudang Internal Martial Arts. He holds a position as secretery of the International Wudang Mountain Taiji Gongfu Association and have done performances in China, Korea and Germany. He has publiced articles in the Chinese Martial Arts Wudang Wind Magazine and Hubei Daily Newspaper. He was mentioned in a book about famous Gongfu Masters in 2010 (“Chinese Folk/Unofficial Gongfu Masters” – “Zhongguo Mingjian Wushu Mingjia”). In 2010 set up the school and the present location in Wudangshan, same year his student Jakob Isaksson, Sweden, won a Silver and Brons Medal in the 4th World Traditional Wushu Championships.

Tang Li Longs philosophy is to wholeheartedly train the disciples and carry on the tradition.

Learn more about Master Tang’s Academy including full training curriculum and prices. 

Chang Ping Martial Arts Festival.

A little footage taken from the Chang Ping Annual International Martial Arts Competition held every Summer from the 25th to the 28th of July.

‘All are welcome to compete in various forms and combat sports.’

Chang Ping is 45 minutes from the Center of Beijing and is easily reached by public transport. A direct bus will leave every thirty minutes from Jishuitan Subway station, Line 2. Bus 883 leaves from outside the subway station and will take you to the Chang Ping Gymnasium where the competition is held.

Below you can see Master An Jian Qiu’s Bajiquan performance at the competition.

Kung Fu in Thailand: Back to Centre

It’s Saturday, my last rest day at Nam Yang this trip as I depart for Chiang Mai on Wednesday for a few days R & R before returning to Canada. Life is good here. I’ve made gains in strength, flexibility and sleeping patterns, learning so many new martial arts principles and practices of Shaolin Kung Fu while generally centring myself. I’d like to devote this entry mainly to the theme of centring, which relates directly to my back injury and overall goal for coming here.

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I had concluded my previous entry with a discussion of how the intensive training, about 8 hours a day, had re-stimulated my back injury. A disc herniation on the right hand side of my lower lumbar spine was exasperated by the large number of flexion activities performed many times a day, often held for periods of a time. I was trying to be positive about it but feeling pretty down. I got up the next day at about 5:30 am and went down for our morning Chi Kung session at 6. I’d not woken up with that much back pain in years. By the time we got into the Chi Kung practice I was in a downward spiral and going through a lot emotions. As we moved into the stepping meditation I began to calm my mind and bring focus to the practice. Master Iain passed by and reminded me to drop my tailbone; this helps root one’s stance and sink the Chi, accompanied by engaging muscles around the lower Dantien. Doing this automatically brings me back to centre, of which a major benefit seemed to be an immediate relieving of pressure on my back.

I practiced this process of dropping the tailbone, grounding the stance and coming back to my centre many times. I did this not just in our Kung Fu practice but continuously throughout the day. Not only was it improving my Kung Fu stance and helping relieve back pain, it brought a general awareness to my posture and state of mind. This process of coming back to my centre has become a mindfulness practice for me and is something I shall carry forward into my life. I used to do a lot of this at one time. In my twenties I became certified as a fitness instructor integrating Yoga and meditation with some Chi Kung into what I called the “Whole Fitness Workout”, which I taught into my thirties. I often used to tuck under my tailbone and pull in my lower Dantien. It developed a keen awareness of my physical movement centre building good muscle tone in my lower abdomen. I pretty much let that go after injuring my back; it was all I could do just to keep standing and walking for a couple years. Going through this back injury re-stimulation and healing process at Nam Yang I’ve become aware of some unhealthy postural habits on which I will have to work. I think I unconsciously started getting more of a curve back in my lumbar spine to protect my back against flexion, which seems to have been accompanied by a loosening of the musculature and loss of tone in my lower abdomen. I had started noticing this recently at the gym (too much mirror gazing?) when checking form and was wondering about it; with my centring mindfulness practice the awareness has come together. It took years to create this situation but hopefully not so long to correct and maintain it. Even sitting here now I must be reminding myself self to lower the tailbone and maintain my centre.

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Me doing a slash and block with my favorite Tan Tao (broadsword) flanked by the two great Nagas (Dragons) in front of Nam Yang’s Buddha House.

Maintaining one’s centre, like many of the principle lessons in our Kung Fu practice has numerous applications for life. Indeed, coming into and maintaining my centre was an overarching goal I had shared with Sifu Iain in my initial contact email inquiring about the possibility of training at Nam Yang. “As a goal at Nam Yang I would love to leave with a set of basic fundamentals to carry forward in my personal practice…(and) am especially interested in cultivating a state of mind conducive to maintaining my centre and living graciously amidst the challenges of this beautiful, troubled world.” It’s amazing how things can come together and somewhat blows my mind just reading this. I think the trick for me will be to keep up with this mindfulness practice even when I’m not in pain. I recall Master Iain’s teaching that with this work you can change your life, “You can change who you are.” The word “Kung Fu” is made up of two characters. I understand that the first character for “Kung” means something like “hard work” or “skillful training”; the second character for “Fu” refers to “time spent”. So “Kung Fu” might be translated as “time spent in hard work or skillful training”. Master Iain often quotes his Sifu, Master Tan. One of his most repeated aphorisms is that the secret to learning Kung Fu involves two things: first start, then don’t stop.

Master Iain mentioned at tea that while many other martial arts teach mechanics and techniques, Shaolin Kung Fu teaches principles. The lesson of maintaining my centre fits very well with this philosophy. Like with any other Kung Fu skill, I know mastering the lesson of maintaining my centre will take time and effort to change my life, but it will be time well spent. I’m already feeling the benefits, both in terms of my Kung Fu and my back. Of course along with maintaining my centre I have been modifying activities that involve flexion; yet I have been able to perform most of the others with vigour. It’s been two days since the flare up of my herniated disc and I’m feeling so much better; in the past that much pain would have taken a lot longer to settle down. Another factor to which I attribute this quick turn around is the strength and flexibility I have built up from the waist down since starting the training. These are also principles and practices that I will take with me.

the other is doing the broadsword salute with Moon behind.
Doing the broadsword salute with Moon behind.

I had checked the weather for Canmore back home and was -30; meanwhile I’ve training here in +35. A 65 degree difference, wow! I got a ride into town on one of the scooters which is the standard means of transport and finally got to amble down “Walking Street” on my own in Pai. Walking Street is a Thai phenomenon and a must see for tourists. Starting around 6 p.m. the street is lit up and packed with a cacophony of street vendors and performers, bars and taverns, discos, restaurants, tea shops and a myriad of nightlife in a carnivalesque atmosphere, replete with red light district in some of the larger cities. This happens pretty much every night, but one of the most famous is the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai. I was there but couldn’t get up the juice to go when I first arrived. The one in Pai is no where near as big, but wonderful, even magical. There are so many brilliant artists and artisans selling their wares it can be a little overwhelming: a genius every block. Moreover, the Thai people are so wonderful, beautiful and patient, it really is very touching, and oh boy can they cook! I must have had fresh banana or banana-coconut shake at every vendor. Another special aspect in Pai is its proximity to the local hill tribes. You see a lot of tribal culture and crafts for different peoples like the Karen, Lahu, Lisu and Hmong, each with a distinct language and culture, many of whom are fleeing violence and persecution in the surrounding region. They are agriculturalists and hunters; I was hunting for gifts to bring home and scored big time! I won’t go into the details and spoil a surprise but I did pick up a gorgeous Hmong shoulder bag for 250 Baht, which is about 8 and a half dollars Canadian. It was made from the recycled clothes of a high ranking family, the likes of which are not being made so much anymore.

Anyhow, we train early in the morning and I shall have to try and sleep through the throbbing music echoing off the hills. I have three days of training left and really want to make the most of it! More to say, but for now it’s good night.

Much Love and warmth from Thailand!

by David Lertzman

David Lertzman Ph.D. is the Assistant Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development PI: Energy Indigenous Environment Interface Research Program, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary.

This blog entry is part of a series of blogs David Lertzman wrote for StudyMartialArts.Org detailing his experiences training at Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat. If you’re interested in visiting this school book your place here and get an exclusive discount  Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat.

Things Chinese People Say

Once you arrive in China and meet a few locals it won’t be long before this clip from TMD Shanghai make all too much sense. It’s a light hearted look at some of things I guarantee you who find yourself hearing when you visit the Middle Kingdom. During my 6 years in China I’ve heard and witnessed a lot. Here are some of my favorite questions I’ve been asked during that time. Where are you from?Ài’ěrlán. Ah, Yīngguó! Do you know how to use chopsticks? What’s your favorite color? Do you like Chinese food? How much do they pay you?

“When in China the Chinese inquisition will get you and won’t give up.”

Do you play tai chi? Do you like KTV? Why you not married? Do you like Chinese girl? Whatever you do embrace the inquisitiveness and have fun.

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This is a fun post inspired by TMD Shanghai and onlinethatsmag.com by David Kelly CEO and Director of www.StudyMartialArts.Org – An adventure travel company specializing in Martial Arts.